The importance of sleep


At some point in their lives, everyone has heard that they should get 8 hours of sleep. However, most people don’t understand why getting a restful sleep is so important.

Sleep is very important in many facets of health. Sleep deprivation is known to cause problems with mood and memory. Memory consolidation, the process by which the brain converts new information into memory, occurs during a certain phase of deep sleep termed rapid eye movement, or REM, sleep. Therefore, those individuals that do not attain an adequate amount of sleep never achieve REM sleep, so they awaken with clouded thought. Chronic sleep deprivation will also cause problems with weight gain by altering certain hormones in the body, especially cortisol, which are responsible for regulating nutrient processing and fat metabolism. Finally, inability to achieve adequate sleep is associated with disease and sickness because sleep deprivation impairs immune system function.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, approximately 60% of people suffer from difficulty sleeping at least 2 nights a week. Although certain long-term illnesses can cause sleeping difficulties, the primary cause of sleep deprivation is stress. Lack of sleep has been associated with certain health risks, such as cardiovascular disease. Also, according to a University of Michigan study, sleep patterns in adolescents have also been linked to future drug use (2004 April issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research).

The average American requires about 8 hours of sleep per night, and contrary to popular belief, the need for sleep does not decrease with age (Van Dongen & Dinges, Principles & Practice of Sleep Medicine, 2000). In order to achieve a proper nights rest, you may try employing the following techniques:

   1. Keep a regular sleep schedule

   2. Avoid caffeine for 4-6 hours before bed

   3. Quit smoking

   4. Avoid alcohol and heavy meals before bed

   5. Get regular exercise, but avoid right before bed

   6. Instill a bed time, and go to bed at that time whether tired or not

   7. Try to avoid using an alarm, or set alarm back if constantly using snooze button

Sleeping problems have been associated with impairments in nervous system function, cardiovascular function, metabolic function, and immune system function, so if you have been experiencing difficulty sleeping, contact Wilderness Chiropractic at 724-934-7788 to see if your sleeping difficulties may be related to some medical condition. When you start making sleep an important part of your daily schedule, you will be surprised at how much better you start to feel.